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Rev. King’s nonviolent philosophy needs to be lived today, speakers say

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Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s support of nonviolence to bring about social change applies as much to today’s society as it did when Rev. King put his philosophy to paper 60 years ago, said speakers at an Oct. 2 news conference at the memorial dedicated to the civil rights figure in Washington.

Bishop George V. Murry of Youngstown, Ohio, chair of the U.S. bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism, is seen near the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in Washington Oct. 2. He and other faith leaders gathered near the monument to commemorate Rev. King’s 1957 essay about “Nonviolence and Racial Justice.” (CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn)

That the news conference was scheduled in advance of, and held the day after, the Las Vegas shooting spree that killed 58 people and injured more than 500 only underscored the importance of Rev. King’s message, according to the speakers.

“It’s hard to find something in times like these that doesn’t sound like clichés,” said Bishop George V. Murry of Youngstown, Ohio, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism. “As a society, we need to stop making excuses and commit to nonviolence.”

He added, “Pope Francis speaks of the earth as our common home. So it is. And so it is with our society. … It is so easy to speak of human dignity,” said, “but do we believe it selectively — applying it to some people but not to others?”

Bishop Murry, who is African-American, acknowledged he has been the target of racism and segregation. One of the more frustrating episodes for him, he told Catholic News Service, was when a white airline passenger called for a flight attendant because he did not want to sit next to Bishop Murry.

Rev. King’s essay, “Nonviolence and Racial Justice,” appeared in the Feb. 6, 1957, issue of the Christian Century, a theological journal. It laid out his principles for acting nonviolently to seek change.

In his essay, Rev. King wrote: “How is the struggle against the forces of injustice to be waged? There are two possible answers. One is resort to the all too prevalent method of physical violence and corroding hatred. The danger of this method is its futility. Violence solves no social problems; it merely creates new and more complicated ones. Through the vistas of time a voice still cries to every potential Peter, ‘Put up your sword!’ The shores of history are white with the bleached bones of nations and communities that failed to follow this command.”

One of the points Rev. King made about nonviolent resistance as an alternative is that it “does not seek to defeat or humiliate the opponent, but to win his friendship and understanding.”

“The nonviolent resister,” he said, “must often express his protest through noncooperation or boycotts, but he realizes that noncooperation and boycotts are not ends themselves; they are merely means to awaken a sense of moral shame in the opponent. The end is redemption and reconciliation. The aftermath of nonviolence is the creation of the beloved community, while the aftermath of violence is tragic bitterness.”

“Things looked bleak, and the violence was real, but Rev. King held that high ground. And people rallied to him,” said Carl Anderson, supreme knight of the Knights of Columbus, which sponsored the news conference. “He understood that there were two non-negotiable principles in our democracy: first, that all are created equal and are entitled to the equal protection of our nation’s laws; second, that in our democracy, there can be no place for political violence.”

The United States has many challenges, including renewed racism by groups like the Ku Klux Klan, he said, noting that from its founding in 1882, the Knights as an organization “has long assisted the cause of racial equality.”

Anderson added, “Today, as then, we stand united in the principle that all are created equal, and we reiterate the words of Pope Francis last month calling for ‘the rejection of all violence in political life.’ We believe the way of nonviolence is as relevant today as ever.”

“Dr. King is still the beacon of the way forward,” said Bishop Charles E. Blake Sr., presiding bishop of the Church of God in Christ, in remarks delivered by Bishop Edwin C. Bass, president of the denomination’s Urban Initiatives. Bishop Blake added that 2018, the 50th anniversary of Rev. King’s assassination, should be seen as “the year of Martin Luther King Jr.,” with programs and conferences to renew the commitment to nonviolence.

The Rev. Eugene Rivers, founder and director of the Boston-based W.J. Seymour Institute for Black Church and Policy Studies, called this moment “a biblical opportunity to be salt and light in the midst of this political darkness. … We have to learn how to disagree without being disagreeable.”

Rev. Rivers cautioned the change would not be instantaneous: “I’m not optimistic, yes, but I’m full of faith.”

     

Follow Pattison on Twitter: @MeMarkPattison.

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Knights of Columbus aim to work more closely with parishes

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Catholic News Service

The Knights of Columbus has announced an initiative designed to bring the Knights into closer cooperation with parishes.

A Knights of Columbus honor guard leads a eucharistic procession on the feast of Corpus Christi in Corpus Christi Parish in Mineola, N.Y. (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz)

A Knights of Columbus honor guard leads a eucharistic procession on the feast of Corpus Christi in Corpus Christi Parish in Mineola, N.Y. (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz)

Changes were noted in an address delivered by Supreme Knight Carl A. Anderson in November to a San Antonio meeting of state deputies and reprinted in the December issue of Columbia, the Knights’ magazine. “We will use our resources of time, talent and money to strengthen parish-based and parish-sponsored programs,” he wrote.

According to Anderson, the 1.9 million-member Catholic fraternal group, organized into over 15,000 councils operating in the United States and a number of other countries, will continue its focus on spirituality, charity, unity, brotherhood and patriotism. But it will strive to bring its activities into greater identification with parishes under the supervision of parish pastors, avoiding duplication or any perception of competition.

Among the changes involved, the Knights will not build or acquire any new council halls. This change, where parish rather than separate facilities are used for meetings and activities, has already allowed the formation of councils that would not have been able to afford a building, and will avoid members having to devote too much time and effort to support the building by renting it for unrelated activities.

In another significant change, by the end of this year, the Knights of Columbus will no longer sponsor Scout groups. Instead, the group will work to support parish youth ministry programs, including parish-based Catholic Scouting.

The Knights, Anderson wrote, should strive to integrate the activities of their Squires Circles, affiliated groups of boys and young men ages 10 to 18, with those of the parish youth ministry. He said councils and assemblies in the U.S. and Canada that do not have Squires groups should not begin new ones but instead should support existing parish-based youth ministry programs.

The Knights, Anderson wrote, are devoted to building up the family as the domestic church and to evangelizing family life, a work that can be done most effectively by working in and with the parish.

Andrew T. Walther, vice president for communications and strategic planning of the Supreme Council, noted in an interview with Catholic News Service that it is important to remember that the Knights of Columbus was founded in 1882 in a parish by a parish priest, Father Michael McGivney, whose sainthood cause has taken its first steps. In re-emphasizing its focus on the parish, Walther said, the organization is going back to its roots.

“Most of our councils are based in parishes,” Walther said, and Knights traditionally put themselves at the service of the parish. The group “really wants to focus in a very specific way on what we’re doing in the parish,” which includes prayer and the sacramental life, charitable works, and taking a holistic approach to being united with the parish. Different parishes have different priorities, and the Knights of Columbus can be flexible to help with different needs, he noted.

Walther said the change in sponsorship of Scout groups is not intended to diminish the Knights’ commitment to Catholic Scouting, but to bring it back to focus in the parish.

Asked whether the lack of a council hall would lessen the fellowship aspect of the Knights’ interaction with each other, Walther said he didn’t think that would be a problem. Members in current parish-based councils find ways to get together and experience fraternity, he said. “I don’t think you need a separate building. I don’t think you lose fraternity, and you gain a lot of unity with the parish.”

The current initiative is designed to promote “the involvement of families within the parish. The parish is our home, and we should be working first and foremost through our parish.” Making the parish and interaction with the parish the top priority is, he said, a re-assertion of the model on which the Knights were founded.

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Knights of Columbus leader cites threats to religious institutions

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Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — Religious liberty was topic A at the eighth annual National Catholic Prayer Breakfast, held April 19 at a Washington hotel.

“Never in the lifetime of anyone present here has the religious liberty of the American people been as threatened as it is today,” warned Carl Anderson, supreme knight of the Knights of Columbus, in remarks to the estimated 800 people in attendance.

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